THE HAGUE, Netherlands (JTA) – At a public lighting of Hanukkah candles, Amsterdam’s acting mayor urged Jews to celebrate their faith openly to counter rising levels of anti-Semitism.
“The answer to intolerance lies precisely in demonstrating freedom of worship and of expression,” Eric van der Burg said Tuesday, lighting the first candle of the holiday. Gesturing toward the three-foot menorah on display at a square in Amsterdam’s Zuidas district, he added: “This is a shining example of this.”
Anti-Semitic incidents increased dramatically in the Netherlands during Israel’s summer war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The CIDI watchdog group registered 105 complaints during the two-month operation. The organization registered 147 the whole of 2013.
Yanki Jacobs, a Chabad rabbi from Amsterdam who lit the menorah with the mayor, thanked him.“The message is that you can’t fight darkness with darkness,” Jacobs said.
Public Hanukkah celebrations are a recent development in Europe. In the Netherlands, the lightings are spearheaded by pro-Israel and pro-Jewish Christians.
On Thursday, Dutch Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, Yanki Jacobs’ father, lit a 36-foot menorah in the small city of Urk near Amsterdam at a ceremony attended by hundreds of Christian Zionists. The menorah, built last year by the Christians for Israel organization, is believed to be Europe’s largest.
Earlier this week, Jacobs attended another Hanukkah ceremony in the southern city of Middleburg, where Mayor Harald Bergmann presented a royal decoration to two of the local Jewish community’s pioneers who had been knighted.
Aryeh and Rachel Herz, 72 and 73 respectively, were made knights in the Netherlands’ Order of Orange-Nassau for their efforts to rebuild their community’s synagogue, among other projects.